Further education and apprenticeship pathways into engineering

In response to the Department for Education (DfE) releasing new apprenticeships data on 24 November 2022, EngineeringUK has run an analysis on the data related to the engineering and technology sector. The data shows:

Apprenticeship starts

  • Apprenticeship starts are up across the board since last year, but remain lower than prior to the pandemic.
  • Engineering-related apprenticeship starts have increased at a greater rate than all sector subject areas, increasing 25.8% on 2020/21, compared to 8.6% increase across all sector subject areas.
  • However, engineering-related apprenticeship starts are still down 5.5% since 2018/19, and down 12.3% since 2016/17.
  • Again these are lower declines than all sector subject areas – down 11.2% since 2018/19 and 29.4% since 2016/17.
  • While apprenticeship starts in ‘engineering and manufacturing technologies’ have picked up again post-pandemic, the long term decline since 2016/17 is still large.
  • However, apprenticeship starts in ‘information and communication technology’ and ‘construction, planning and the build environment’ have both increased in 2021/22 to above the levels seen in 2016/17.


Apprenticeship starts by engineering-related subject


Apprenticeship starts by level

  • While apprenticeship starts have either gone up or remained broadly consistent across levels and subject areas since last year, the longer-term trend of the decline of levels 2 and 3 and increase of levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 remains.


  • The proportion of female apprenticeship starts has been improving for engineering-related subject areas, but remains below the proportion across all apprenticeship subject areas – 14.2% of engineering-related apprenticeship starts are female, compared to 50.8% across all subject areas.
  • The proportion of female starts in engineering-related apprenticeships has increased 6.1 percentage points since 2016/17.
  • The increase in female participation in engineering-related apprenticeships is being mostly driven by ‘information and communication technology’ – 32.1% of apprenticeship starts in this sector subject area were by females, up from 15.8% in 2016/17.


  • There has been a similar long term trend of an increase in the percentage of apprenticeship starts by minority ethnic groups. For engineering-related apprenticeships, in 2021/22 12.5% of starts were by people from an ethnic minority, up from 7.5% in 2016/17.
  • The overall number for all subjects is 14.4%, up from 11.2% in 2016/17.
  • Similarly to gender, this increase in engineering is being driven by ICT – 24% of starts were from minority ethnic groups. Up from 17.2% in 2016/17.



The briefing below, published in August 2022, is part of our educational pathways series and is accompanied by a suite of data tables looking at the qualifications available in further education (FE), with 2 main categories: technical/vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, with more emphasis on apprenticeships (due to the data available).

The focus is on ‘engineering-related qualifications’, which – in line with previous EngineeringUK research – covers the ‘construction, planning and the built environment’, ‘engineering and manufacturing technologies’, and ‘information and communication technology’ sector subject areas.

We look at the recently introduced T levels, their aim being to create clearer vocational pathways into engineering, while also allowing the flexibility to move across different educational routes. Construction was one of the first T levels to be introduced in 2020/21, with engineering and manufacturing to follow from 2022/23.

We then look at apprenticeships, which are an important route into engineering careers though numbers entering onto them have been impacted by reforms in recent years. Furthermore, when we look at the characteristics of apprentices, in terms of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background, there is less diversity among engineering than other subjects. This mirrors what we see in the engineering workforce and suggests that more work needs to be done to create more diversity amongst engineers for the future.

Download key findings infographic

Key findings:

  • In England, there has been a decline in uptake for all apprenticeship subjects of 35% from 2016/17 to 2020/21, with engineering-related apprenticeships declining by 30%
  • The numbers starting degree or higher level engineering-related apprenticeships have been increasing, whilst the intermediate and advanced level apprenticeships have decreased 
  • In England in 2020/21, women made up 14.5% of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in 2020/21
  • The share of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in the South East has increased since 2016/17, from 13.3% to 15.7%, whereas the share in the North East has declined from 7.8% to 6.0% 
  • There is a promising upward trend in T level enrolments, with the construction T level more than quadrupling its intake from 250 in 2020/21 to 1,150 in 2021/22
  • Engineering-related vocational qualifications made up 31% of all entries for 16 to 18 year olds in 2020/21 
  • We see higher attainment rates in women, with 87% achieving their engineering-related vocational qualification in 2020/21, compared to 84% of men 

Download the summary

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